Monday, February 27, 2012

Guest post: J. Thorn on being an author

J. Thorn crafts stories. His toolbox includes a keyboard and a mouse as well as a microphone and a guitar. J. lives in the shadow of the Cuyahoga River which has not caught fire in over forty years. When not frightening his own children with bedtime stories, Thorn can be found performing with Threefold Law. He loves coffee made with a French press and is a connoisseur of epic fantasy. His writings are available in paperback and for Kindle on Amazon.

At what point do you earn the title of author?  Who bestows it upon you?  What is the difference between a writer and an author?  What does this all mean?

Decades ago and up through the recent past, things were quite simple.  Authors wrote books.  Published authors had an agent that sold the books to a publisher.  Unrepresented writers took their manuscript to a vanity press and paid for a box of their self-published books that appeared under the Christmas tree of the extended family, and ironically, back into a box in the deep recesses of said family’s attic.  Simple.

Now, in 2012, what does it mean to be an author?  An idea for a book does not make one an author.  A blog does not make one an author.  Bloggers can write frequently but some are not really considered writers any more than those that Tweet are writers.  Writers compose many different types of readable content, not all of which becomes published.  Bloggers are generally writers but not always authors, writers can be authors but not necessarily bloggers, and bloggers can be both writers and authors or neither.  Got that?  People tell me that they have a great idea for a book and I am always excited to hear that.  Unfortunately, ideas alone do not make you a writer or an author.  Ideas make you a thinker and thinking is good, but authors make books.

So you have an idea and you write a book, let’s say fiction in this case.  Without getting into the level of detail about the writing process as I did in this post, this means you have written a manuscript, revised it, and edited it.  If you gave it to someone, they could read this story that had a beginning, middle, and end.  Does this mean you are an author?

Right now the industry is lost in the same way the major record labels were ten years ago.  Amazon and its KDP program says anyone that can upload a Word document is an author.  Legacy publishers say that you are not an author unless they stock your books on a shelf in a “real” bookstore, if you can still find one.  Readers do not really know.  Many remain fixated on what the industry tells them is a book while others have redefined terms for both the creator and the product.

One thing that is for certain is that books must still be written.  They cannot materialize out of the air and the latest robot in Japan cannot create one.  If an author writes a story in the forest and nobody reads it, is it a book?  If you want to be CALLED an author, keep listening to what agents and publishers say.  If you want to BE an author, write the best story you can and let the universe sort out the nametags.

Friday, February 24, 2012

World Kindle domination from my writing desk

World domination is within the grasp of reclusive hillbillies...Amazon is branching onto Brazil:

I have one Portuguese title already so it will be competing with 3,800 Kindle titles in a land of 195 million people. I like those odds. And I set my first German title, Tote lieben langer, to free for Saturday and Sunday, a book skillfully translated by Stefan Mommertz. And a Japanese manga artist will be providing illustrations to mirror the work of my fictional character Kendra Wilson (herself a manga-style comics artist) in the Chinese edition of Speed Dating with the Dead.

I say all this not to brag, but in incredible gratitude to and in awe of this era and these circumstances. All this can be accomplished without an agent, without anyone in New York to anoint me, without anyone's permission or approval. I feel like a kid playing in the sandbox, just waiting for the bell to ring and the grown-ups to tell me it is time to get back in line. Because all this is done with relentless will, built on a business model of blind faith and blind panic.

It took no money to play. All it took was heart, passion, and time. It is a spiritual journey for me, and God and her Universe reinforce what I do, which is why I believe it is utterly okay to be me and to do these things. To do anything else would be resistance to the flow. And I also know anyone can do this. All you have to do is believe absolutely, commit fully, and go around, over, or through anyone who says "No."

If a silly old hillbilly can do it, surely you can. And I never have to leave my Appalachian Mountain holler if I don't want to. And I rarely want to. Because the whole world is already right here. And I only want the world so I can give it back. You can play in my sandbox anytime!

My box set Mystery Dance: Three Novels will be free today through Sunday (Feb. 24-26):


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Generosity marketing is not marketing

I delved into this a little in today's video on Jason Chatraw's blog but it has been the hot topic of speculation since Amazon started its freebie program: is giving away books going to kill us or save us?

Guess it depends on which "us" you are in. I don't want this to be a writing blog, but this is a fleeting historic opportunity to explore generosity marketing, or my preferred nomenclature of "idea gardens." Getting on a million Kindles for free is great for sharing your ideas--who knows whether most of the books will be read, because even though it is voluntary, it takes very little investment on the reader's part. See, click. And with hundreds of sites and Twitter feeds constantly pumping out free book links, we may already be past the point where "free" has value.

And there is a dark side. Free books often get to people who don't want them and don't value them. They will write negative reviews like (yes, this is real), "I got this because it was free but I don't like ghost stories" and the new manifestation, the "Blame the author One-Star" where someone is mad because a book they were told was free (often because the reader stumbled across a days-old blog post) is not free when the reader finally shows up to get it, or they clicked and it didn't download for some reason.

Although this is mind-blowing to me, I hear some writers try to scam by announcing a book as free and then secretly making it not free in hopes of netting unwilling purchases...that is a suicidal tactic in every possible respect. The larger point is that free is not free. It is still a transaction of time, energy, resources, ideas. Fundamental principle of free: once you give it away, it isn't yours anymore.

You are giving away your idea (your seeds, your book) to a reader (who may not be a reader at all, especially not your reader) and hoping the idea blossoms on the other side, in the other person's garden. Whether the other person's idea in the exchange comes in the form of their time or money, or both, it is now in their garden, not yours.

If you can give away without any expectation of return, that is "generosity marketing." That's how the garden works. And the irony is if you don't want or need or expect a reward for your gift, you are more likely to benefit. Because you win either way. If you're going to be free, let free be free.

Free today: Missing Pieces story collection for Kindle
Reading: Robert McCammon's Mystery Walk
Touting: The Epic Kindle Giveaway blog for free kindle thrillers
Warning: Mystery Dance: Three Novels is free for Kindle Friday-Sunday (please review it if you've read the three books in it--Disintegration, Crime Beat, and The Skull Ring.)
Watching: Recently watched District Nine, Inception, and one of the Twilight movies where Pattinson sulks (does that narrow it down?)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ty Johnston Guest Post

Fiction writer Ty Johnston is touring the blogosphere this month, in part to promote his latest e-book novel,Demon Chains, but also because he loves blog touring and making new acquaintances online. His other novels includeCity of Rogues, More Than Kin and Ghosts of the Asylum, all of which are available for the Kindle, the Nook and online at Smashwords. To learn more about Ty and his writing, follow him at his blog

As a fiction writer, over the years I have noticed much of literature contains violence to one extent or another. In Westerns and action-adventure tales, violence is practically a necessity to the story. In fantasy and science fiction, violence is common enough. Even in the romance genre, there often can be found a villain with a gun, a thug with a knife, a wicked temptress with a bottle of poison, etc. I doubt I need to mention the horror genre’s reliance upon violence.

Usually in literature the violence is originated with the antagonist, sometimes followed up by violence from the protagonist. That’s not always the case, of course, but it is a simple enough notion for all of us to understand and it is one that offers an acceptable framework to the majority of readers. Most of us shy away from violence, at least in the real world, and we want our entertainment reading to make sense to our own values and our image of the world, or how we would prefer the world to operate.

Unfortunately, most times fiction writers get it wrong. About violence, that is.

I get it wrong. I admit it, though I’m not happy about it. Fortunately, for my sake, of late I write mostly in the horror and fantasy genres.

In horror, the violence is most often what I think of as “civilian violence,” meaning it usually is not targeted at military or law enforcement or those who can readily fight back (though that’s not always the case), which kind of makes sense because if Dracula, as a simplistic example, showed up at a base full of U.S. Marines, I’m sure poor Drac would soon find himself staked out cold with a grenade stuck in his mouth. Just kidding. But still, I’m sure the Marines could make short work of a villain like Dracula. Something like Godzilla, on the other hand, might provide more of a challenge.

Concerning fantasy ... well, it’s a little easier for a writer to fake it and get by writing violence in a fantasy world simply because so many readers themselves are not that familiar with the handling of a sword, nor rarely would they have a realistic idea as to how much damage an ogre or even a dragon could deal out.

On the other hand, there are a growing number of readers who know their swords, as there are readers who know their guns. And they will not hesitate to call a writer out. I don’t know how many times I’ve read an older police procedural novel and cringed when the author mentioned a crook using a silencer on a revolver, or a cop who had to flick off the safety on a revolver. Once, I even ran across a writer who had an assassin carrying a 22mm pistol, and I asked myself, “What the hell is he trying to assassinate? A jumbo jet?”

The truth is, most fiction writers are not experts in violence. Then again, the majority of human beings alive on the planet are not experts in violence, which is probably a good thing. A number of people might face violence or deal it out, even on a daily basis sometimes in some parts of the world, but still, most are not experts at it.

I’m not trying to give fiction writers a break here, really, because often enough we look silly when we get things wrong, which is most of the time when it comes to exertions of force. Fiction writers’ main intention most of the time is to entertain, but that is no reason to get our facts wrong nor to dismiss the realities of that which we write. It’s no reason to be sloppy.

To that end, I always suggest my fellow fiction writers and those who want to become fiction writers become experienced with the use of force, of course within reasonable boundaries.

The easiest way for a writer to begin such studies is with the tools of defense. Firearms. Swords. Spears. Bows. Tasers. Explosives. Many of us have our favorites, our preferred weapons of choice. As I mentioned above, one of the easiest mistakes for a fiction writer to make is concerning weapons. At the very least, we need to know about the ones of which we write. If I’m planning a story that will involve a particular weapon, I try to get my hands on one, to understand not only how it operates, but how it feels in my hands. Better yet, when possible, I try to receive at least some bare training in the use of the weapon. When none of this is possible, such as when I’m writing about military weaponry, I fall back on asking some Marine buddies about their experiences; often I will send them the story or chapters involving such a weapon, seeking input on where I might have got things wrong.

Still, weapons are only one aspect of the potential use of force, a most obvious one within literature but not always the most important one.

Beyond weapons, practical training and experience can be important. If a fiction writer happens to have a military or law enforcement or related background, that can help to elevate their writings. For those of us who have none of that, sometimes we can receive minor levels of training at weekend camps and even seminars and the like, for what they are worth, but more often than not we must turn to experts and other writers, usually non-fiction writers. Such experts and writers can readily open one’s eyes to not only particulars of training and events, but also to emotional levels or detachments that often are unfamiliar to the civilian world.

This is about the best fiction writers can hope to accomplish when it comes to gaining experience in the uses of force. To go further would take us past being mere writers, would include a scope of involvement that is frankly beyond many of us for a variety of reasons.

Let me wind things up here by stating that if I came of as somewhat flippant concerning fiction writing and violence, I did not mean to. Those of us who makes things up for a living should not get off so easily, because we owe it to our audience to get the facts right, from mechanical details to emotional revelations. I admit to failure sometimes, but I continue to strive for what might be an unreachable goal for myself. However, for me, the journey is what is important, perhaps more so than the culmination, and I can always keep pushing ahead, trying new things, learning from the best.

As my final words, I want to thank Scott for allowing me to appear as a guest on his blog today.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Free ebooks, Cory Doctorow, and the fight against obscurity

Amazon has made it easy to give away ebooks (with the condition of exclusivity, of course) but the idea isn't really new. Cory Doctorow and others have been advocates of free ebooks for more than a decade, with the science fiction community being early adopters of the idea.

People ask me why I give away so many ebooks (probably 300,000 copies since Christmas), and I say, "There are probably 20 million Kindles in America and I want to be on every one of them." I don't worry about lost sales because not that many people know who I am, despite multiple titles over the years. And it also fits my philosophy of idea gardens, where we all trade ideas and grow together.

Cory Doctorow lays out some of his notions in this free ebook , although some of the positions are decidedly dated--such as using the free ebooks to sell paper books. Doctorow also talks a little too gleefully about getting rich for my tastes, but that's his trip. The ideas in his ebook are free and worth it.

The challenge still remains: how do I get people to read these books? How do I reach the people who don;t even know I have books, or those who don't even know my ebooks are free? Where are the unexplored territories? Is it possible to build a productive communal model for big ebook giveaways?

I am currently developing a platform for huge ebook events, with sponsor-supported events. Free ebooks and lending libraries will soon make a joke of the $9.99 ebook. As Doctorow also notes, nobody knows how writers will make a living in a free world, but the first worry is to not be lost in obscurity. I still have 19.7 million Kindles to go, and seven billion readers worldwide!

Free through 2/18- Ghost Box: Six Supernatural Thrillers

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Talking shop at USA Today

I made a brief appearance in a USA Today piece about self-publishing, assembled by Jefferson Graham. Thanks to author Lee Goldberg for the connection. I also babbled for a newspaper piece out on stands at the moment, if you can find a copy. I am getting one for Mom.

If you know me at all, you know I am more into the lifestyle of creativity than the money, although that seemed to be the article's main thrust--that people can get rich off of this. It's still one of the hardest ways to get rich on the planet, but nothing beats sitting at home and dreaming. I hope more people get to do it, and if my advice and experience helps someone else be happy, then cool! Go for it.

Free through 2/18 at Amazon for Kindle:

For Amazon UK:


Friday, February 10, 2012

Your Idea Garden: First you have to dig it

The brilliant and weird Seth Godin is something of the outlier's outlier, the weird "thought leader" who is about 20 years ahead of his time. While he wrote an entire book on being weird, a brief online interview summarizes his point.

I have revolutionized my thinking and acting since Christmas. I had great success last year with my ebooks, largely due to luck--circumstance, the explosion of the digital market, a stack of content built over 15 years of often unrewarding effort (besides the satisfaction of complete commitment to craft and story). All that culminated in a book deal with Amazon's new publishing imprint.

I thought I could sit back and not worry any longer, or pay attention to the things that had helped my success. It was more than laziness, it was the notion that I had arrived at some plateau and could now coast a while. Amazon patiently coaxed me up the charts with their marketing plan, and Chronic Fear was ranked #83 on the Christmas Eve Kindle list. I went to bed with dreams of rock stardom and awoke to a book ranked #140 and sliding rapidly--the market had become extremely volatile, indies who hadn't been resting on their smugness had paid attention to the new Select program and played the system to claim that Christmas bestseller list, and I had basically surrendered any power I might have had.

To apply my gardening metaphor, I had cast all my seeds into someone else's garden and hoped they would bring me back a bumper crop at the end of the season, without getting my own hands dirty. I instantly took action, put together the Epic Kindle Giveaway and gave away more than 100,000 books in three days, and recently followed that up with the Big Kindle Boogie, with 118,000 downloads in three days. Combined with the other participating writers, that was about 750,000 free books in a few weeks. While the sowing didn't spring full-grown into blossoms and produce, more than a quarter million of my books have been loaded onto Kindles in the last six weeks.

I am not concerned about whether that is the right "long-term strategy." There is no long-term strategy in a digital era, because there are no long terms, merely fleeting mini-eras, short seasons where certain crops will thrive and others will wither. This is the "free book era," and the advent of the lending library and wholesale bulk delivery. Since digital content is free or cheap, it makes sense to deliver that content in grand quantities. After all, the best blog posts are shared thousands of times in a day and then become yesterday's news. And when the content is delivered with what I call "generosity marketing" (although it is really not marketing at all), you have an unbeatable value-added combination. Everyone is served, and all involved gain something of value. The garden, with seeds to spare, and a crop to keep me and others alive until the next planting season.

But you have to get your hands dirty first. If you aren't smelling the mud, you don't have a foundation. No place for roots. Nothing to stick your seeds in. Find your dirt and cram your fingers into the soil, feel it, smell it, taste it, absorb it through osmosis. I am glad Chronic Fear didn't end up a Top 10 bestseller, or I would have missed my return to my roots and all I have learned in these past six weeks. My hands are filthy and I am grinning.

Free for Amazon Feb. 10-12:
MAD STACKS: Story Collection Box Set

LITTLEFIELD: Two Supernatural Thrillers


Reminder that Robert Shane Wilson laid down a poignant audio rendition of my international Writers of the Future award-winning story "The Vampire Shortstop" at Dark Audio. Grab the mp3 for your commute or listen to the 43 minutes on the blog.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Idea Gardens: Ebooks as Playgrounds

I've come to think of my books as just little "idea gardens" or "idea machines." The word "book" is mostly taken as an artifact, a tangible object you buy, read, and put on a shelf. You don't really "consume" it because it is still there, in the same form as it was before.

Ebooks are currently like that--a fixed text, although with links and some options available such as "choose your own adventure" or "alternate endings" (I have two endings in Disintegration because the original was far too dark for most people.) But there is no real need for a "book" to be an artifact anymore. I am going to develop a Google+ area where people can play inside my books, develop their own characters and stories, add art, etc.

From my participation in the online social events Epic Kindle Giveaway and Big Kindle Boogie, I learned that people want more than just a "book"--they want experience. And increasingly, that experience is interactive and online and now.  I see no reason besides some technological limitations and weird, instilled ego perceptions of "myth ownership" to prevent us from doing that. Surely it is the corporatizing of creativity that has fed these ideas--when Mickey Mouse has more rights than the human who first doodled out the whiskers, that is chillingly wrong in my view, and when some of the major media forces in the U.S. are paying off politicians to enact government Internet control on their behalf (SOPA), that is chillingly sick at the root of our civilization.

That doesn't mean I support piracy. I don't even care about that, that's a different conversation. I am talking about freely opening our idea gardens for other people to play and plant and grow. If you have any ideas on how to do that, why not plant them here?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Three free Kindle Fires today only! 13 Free Scott Nicholson kindle books.

I have 13 free Kindle books today on Amazon. Click for Amazon Central page and grab the freebies (just make sure it says "Kindle Price: $0.00 before you click). You can also visit the Big Kindle Boogie blog to enter for the TWO Bonus Boogie Kindle Fires today only for the Ultimate Thriller Box Set!

Author Central page: Scott Nicholson

Scott Nicholson Library Vol. 1
Scott Nicholson Library Vol. 3
Dark Spells: Four Books (with J.R. Rain)
Burial to Follow
Crime Beat
If I Were Your Monster
The First
The Indie Journey
Ida Claire
Zombie Bits

Ultimate Thriller Box Set
Konrath, Crouch, Black, Goldberg, Nicholson

  •  Use the 13 entry counters below to enter by telling your friends about free books and Kindles (enter as often as you like, but please, no spamming! Only places where your friends welcome your messages. Spammers will be disqualified. I trade words for magic beans and Scott Nicholson stuff is voluntary and fun!)
The Bonus Boogie Kindles and the Scott Nicholson Kindle giveaway end at midnight PST end midnight PST Feb. 3. And this isn't for a contest entry, but I have another big giveaway coming later this month--so be sure to sign up for the newsletter or subscribe to posts to the left to follow blog updates!